How to Improve Your Memory

senior couple smiling outside on a sunny day

Ever met someone you know but couldn’t recall their name? Or thought of someone during a conversation but just couldn’t dredge their name up from your memory bank? It’s awkward, isn’t it? 

Momentarily forgetting names, or where you left your keys, or why you went to a certain room is something every adult experiences. But for many older adults, these senior moments conjure up fears of dementia.

The good news is that Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are not a normal part of aging. Most older adults don’t get Alzheimer’s. About one in ten people over 65 and less than one-third of those over 85 develop the disease.

Seniors who take proactive steps to prevent memory loss can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Remaining socially and mentally active can help improve your memory. So can following a healthy diet, exercising regularly and not smoking. 

For people battling Alzheimer’s, there are new technologies on the horizon, such as brain implants, that could stave off mental decline. Genetic research may also lead to preventive therapies or targeted treatments that stop or reverse memory loss.

But you don’t have to jolt your brain with electricity to improve your memory. (Please don’t try this at home.) Simply follow the tips below to help keep your brain healthy and your memory sharp.

 

8 Things Seniors Can Do to Improve Memory

 

1. Exercise regularly

Many physicians like to say that if something is good for your heart, then it’s probably good for your brain. Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. By regularly doing activities that get your blood pumping more quickly, you can boost the amount of oxygen your brain receives. And that may lead to memory improvements and other cognitive benefits. It will also lower your risk of getting certain diseases that can cause memory loss. At Freedom Village of Bradenton, residents can work out in our fitness center, participate in wellness programs or join an aquacise class in the pool.

 

2. Eat healthy

A healthy diet might be as good for your brain as it is for your heart. There’s some evidence that people who eat a Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of developing dementia. The Mediterranean diet is mostly plant-based: fruits, vegetables, breads, grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Olive oil is the main source of fat. Small amounts of dairy products, fish and poultry are also part of the diet. A little wine with meals is traditional, but moderation is key. Regularly overindulging in alcohol can lead to confusion and memory loss.

 

3. Stay mentally active

Engaging in activities such as music, theater, dance and creative writing has all kinds of health benefits for seniors, including improving memory. In fact, any type of mentally stimulating activity can help keep your mind sharp. Reading or playing bridge, for example. Or taking or teaching a class. Even doing a crossword helps. 

The thinking is that intellectually challenging activities build up “cognitive reserve.” It’s like a rainy-day savings account in your brain you can use when you need quick thinking. Your reserve may also help compensate for age-related memory loss. However, while learning new skills and playing brain games can help with cognition, they work better in combination with physical exercise. Novelty is key, too, so try something new that forces your brain to work and learn.

 

4. Be a social butterfly

Participating in social and community activities improves mood and memory. So look for opportunities to get together with friends and family — especially if you live alone. Social isolation is associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia.

At Freedom Village, residents never lack for ways to stay connected. Our calendar is full of social activities, wellness classes and fun outings to local entertainment and cultural attractions. Plus, there are wonderful places to gather informally, including our courtyard and gardens, library, game room and pub.

 

5. Get a good night’s rest

Sleep is an effortless way to improve your memory. Who hasn’t remembered something after a good night’s sleep that they couldn’t recall the day before? In addition to helping you recover memories, sleep also refreshes your ability to make new memories. A region of the brain called the hippocampus is like a temporary information storage area. During sleep, short-term memories are transferred from the hippocampus to long-term storage areas in the brain. When you wake, your hippocampus has a refreshed ability for new learning. (It can only hold a limited amount of memory.) So if you want to improve your memory, make sleep a priority. Most adults need eight hours of sleep a night.

 

6. Do nothing

Do you ever just let your mind wander freely, without consciously trying to think about anything in particular? It turns out that this kind of wakeful rest can improve your memory, especially if it occurs after a period of learning. By taking at least 10 or 15 minutes to avoid any kind of activity or deliberate mental effort, your mind can more efficiently consolidate the information you learned and store it in your long-term memory. It's similar to what happens when you sleep. At Freedom Village, residents can enjoy mindful downtime in yoga and meditation classes, or by strolling the paths that wind around garden beds and mature trees.

 

7. Manage medical conditions

Follow your doctor's recommendations for medical conditions such as depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and hearing loss. The better you take care of yourself, the better your memory is likely to be. In addition, review your medications with your doctor regularly, as some medications can affect memory.

 

8. Get organized

You're more likely to forget things if they’re located randomly throughout the house. Give your brain an assist by getting organized. Designate a place for your wallet, keys, glasses and other important items so you’ll know where to find them. Keep a calendar for appointments, birthdays and other events. Keep to-do lists current and check off items you've completed. Write Post-it Note reminders and stick them in conspicuous places.

Limit distractions and don't do too many things at once. If you focus on the information that you're trying to retain, you're more likely to recall it later. It might also help to connect what you're trying to retain to a favorite song or another familiar concept.

 

Don’t forget to plan for your retirement.

If you’re considering a move to a senior living community, you’re bound to have questions. Count on us for the answers you need. To learn more about our active, carefree lifestyle or how a Life Plan Community like Freedom Village can provide greater peace of mind, get in touch.